- POSTED: 20 Jun 2014 05:29
The length of Leading Light's neck was all that separated him from the 2013 champion Estimate, pwned by Queen Elizabeth II, at the end of a pulsating Ascot Gold Cup at Royal Ascot on Thursday.
LONDON: The length of Leading Light's neck was all that separated him from the 2013 champion Estimate, pwned by Queen Elizabeth II, at the end of a pulsating Ascot Gold Cup at Royal Ascot on Thursday.
In a pulsating finish that threatened to lift the roof clean off the 200 million pound grandstand, Leading Light narrowly resisted Estimate's bid to win Royal Ascot's feature race for the second year running.
For the winning trainer, 44-year-old Irishman Aidan O'Brien it was a record sixth victory in Europe's premier staying race, and was yet another landmark in his remarkable career having become the first trainer in history to win three successive Epsom Derby's earlier this month.
Estimate may have bowed to Leading Light at the end of a titanic duel but this was defeat on a heroic scale.
Estimate, short of room in the closing strides, managed to resist another Irish challenger, Missunited, by a short-head for second place, but the bare bones do no justice to a pulsating renewal of the feature race at this five-day extravaganza.
The 65,419 in attendance were so vocal that their cheers threatened to lift the roof clean off Ascot's 200 million pound grandstand.
"It was tremendous and the Queen got such pleasure out of it," said Her Majesty's racing and bloodstock advisor, John Warren.
"We really couldn't have asked for more."
For the winning trainer,victory brought joy and relief in equal measure. Some of the Irish trainer's horses have run disappointingly this week, causing him to approach the Gold Cup with trepidation.
But Leading Light cast aside the doubts to become only the third St Leger winner to win the Gold Cup in the last 100 years.
"It was nip and tuck all the way," O'Brien reflected.
"That final furlong seemed to take forever. Obviously we are sorry the Queen's filly finished second but we are delighted to have won."
However, there was a nasty sting in the tail for Joseph O'Brien, who rode the winner. In finding fault with his use of the whip aboard Leading Light, the Ascot stewards banned the 20-year-old son of Aidan from riding for seven days and fined him 3,000 pounds.
O'Brien was later sanctioned for a second time when he again breached whip regulations aboard Carlo Bugatti, which finished seventh in the King George V Stakes. He received a further two-day suspension.
It was a race of high drama in which the winning post could not come soon enough for the jockey. A tiring Leading Light veered from side to side as O'Brien drove him forward with his whip.
So much so that the jockey had to put his whip down for fear of colliding with other horses, in the process allowing Estimate to mount a late rally.
But Ryan Moore, aboard Estimate, was unable to ride to maximum effect. Pinned in between Leading Light on his outer and Missunited inside him, Moore had precious little room in which to manoeuvre.
Estimate still covered herself in glory, not least because she suffered an interrupted preparation in the build-up to the race. She was unable to run before the Gold Cup and had to overcome an eight-month absence from the racecourse.
"It was a great run and I am very proud of her," said Estimate's trainer Michael Stoute, who had earlier won the Tercentenary Stakes with Cannock Chase.
"She is a very brave filly."
O'Brien's big-race nerves were soothed when he saddled Bracelet to win the preceding race, the Ribbledsale Stakes, after his hot favourite, The Great War, had failed to feature in the Norfolk Stakes earlier on the card.
The Great War could finish only fifth of nine runners behind Baitha Alga, who was ridden by Frankie Dettori.
It was Dettori's second winner of the week and a third for Sheikh Joaan Al Thani, whose brother, the Emir of Qatar, arrived at Royal Ascot in the royal horse-drawn procession on Wednesday.